Ultimate – A Social Workout

My son plays Ultimate for a university team and also for a men’s city team and watching him compete I have learned many new things about a game that is fairly new in the history of sport. The first Ultimate games were played in the early 1970’s.

The first thing I’ve noticed is the simplicity of the equipment. All you need to play is a Frisbee and pylons to mark the goal lines at each end of the field. The object of the game is to pass the Frisbee down the field from player to player till one catches it while standing on or over the goal line and scores a point. Ultimate reminds me of basketball. Once you catch the Frisbee you can’t move your feet. You have to freeze and pivot till you pass.

The second thing that intrigues me about the game of Ultimate is the lack of referees. My son has explained the game of Ultimate is totally self- referred. There is a rulebook and players agree to abide by it. If a rule is broken the player who violated the rule can admit their error. A member of the opposing team can also point out the violation. If there is a difference of opinion the two players or teams continue talking until an agreement is reached or one party concedes to the other. Someone always has to give in for the game to go on. My son tells me at the highest level of international competition there are Ultimate officials, but they are called observers and are only called in to make a decision if the two teams can’t reach a compromise after a certain length of time.

A third thing I’m finding interesting about Ultimate is the camaraderie and sportsmanship surrounding the games. The athletes run hard and get a real physical work out but they don’t take the game so seriously they can’t have fun. They help opponents up when they fall down. They chat with opposing players on the sidelines. Sometimes they even play fun skills games with the other team after a match was over. My son says Ultimate is definitely competitive, but its not about winning at all costs. He’s found it to be a great way to get healthy exercise and have a good time. The game has also helped my son to make many new friends. He recently moved to a new city because his wife got a job there and he didn’t really know anyone. Ultimate has been a way for him meet lots of new people.

I discovered the game of Ultimate has its own vocabulary. After each match I quiz my son on the meaning of terms I hear the players use like a pull, break, cut, dump, hammer, poach, flick and swing.

My son is a high school physical education teacher and he teaches his students how to play Ultimate during gym class. He says many high schools are developing men and women’s teams and are having inter-school competitions. Apparently Ultimate is becoming very popular in American colleges and universities and some even offer Ultimate scholarships.

I asked my son if he thought Ultimate would ever become a professional sport or perhaps be in the Olympics one day. He doesn’t think so. Too much organization and commercialization of the sport would defeat its very purpose- to socialize with friends, get some healthy exercise and have fun. I certainly am having fun watching my son play Ultimate and learning more about a new and popular sport.

Anna C. Knight

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